Alfie Evans' father has urged his family's supporters to carry on with their lives in a dramatic u-turn outside Alder Hey hospital.
After weeks of ramping up support for his 23-month-old son to be allowed to travel abroad to receive treatment for his undiagnosed brain condition, it appears Tom Evans has had a change of heart.
Earlier on Thursday, the 21-year-old father even called for the Pope to travel to Merseyside to see Alfie's plight for himself.
But speaking outside the hospital in Liverpool, which has become the focal point of the bitter treatment dispute, he said his latest interview would be his last.
"Our lives have been turned upside down by the intense focus on Alfie and his situation," Mr Evans said.
"Our little family along with Alder Hey has become the centre of attention for many people around the world and it has meant we have not been able to live our lives as we would like.
"We are very grateful and we appreciate all the support we have received from around the world, including from our Italian and Polish supporters, who have dedicated their time and support to our incredible fight.
"We would now ask you to return back to your everyday lives and allow myself, Kate and Alder Hey to form a relationship, build a bridge and walk across it."
Staff at the hospital have been subjected to abuse by angry supporters of the Evans family, who had been campaigning for Alfie to be released from hospital.
In a statement on behalf of himself, his son, and Alfie's mother Kate James, he said: "We also wish to thank Alder Hey staff at every level for their dignity and professionalism during what must be an incredibly difficult time for them too.
"Together we recognise the strains (that) recent events have put upon us all and we now wish for privacy for everyone concerned.
"In Alfie's interests we will work with his treating team on a plan that provides our boy with the dignity and comfort he needs.
"From this point onwards there will be no more statements issued or interviews given. We hope you will respect this."
BREAKING: The father of Alfie Evans is due to meet doctors at Alder Hey Hospital today and will be asking to take Alfie home. pic.twitter.com/Wifz5xJp27— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) April 26, 2018
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Evans appealed to Pope Francis to travel to Liverpool to see the plight of his son who he claims is being held hostage at Alder Hey hospital.
Tom Evans, who has been at the centre of a bitter legal dispute with the hospital, told the Catholic channel TV2000 on Thursday: "I call on the pope to come here to see what is happening.
"Come here and see how my son is the hostage of this hospital. What we are enduring is not right."
Rome's Vatican-owned pediatric hospital Bambino Gesù has offered to treat the 23-month-old boy, who has a serious undiagnosed brain condition.
The government in Rome has granted Alfie Italian citizenship in a bid to bring him to Italy and beat rulings to let him die.
But the British courts have refused to allow the child, who continues to fight after being taken off life support earlier this week, to be transferred to Italy.
"Thank you Italy. We love you," Mr Evans said. "Alfie is part of the Italian family. He is part of Italy. We belong to Italy".
The father is due to meet with doctors at Alder Hey hospital to ask them to let him take his son home.
He told reporters outside the hospital that a bid to take his son to Italy for treatment, backed by the Pope, had been rejected.
However, he said there is still hope for him to take the 23 month-old home.
Mr Evans said: "We got rejected yesterday to go to Italy. We could take it further but would it be the right thing to do?
"So what we are doing to do today is we are meeting with the doctors at Alder Hey and we now start asking to go home."
He claimed on Good Morning Britain that nurses had been shocked by Alfie's condition, explaining: "For the third day there's not been one single problem with him. The nurses come in and say 'wow.'"
On Wednesday, it emerged that Alfie, who stopped receiving life-support treatment late on Monday as a result of the court’s decision, is now “struggling” and is not expected to live much longer.
There have been passionate protests staged outside the hospital in recent days, with some campaigners clashing with police as they tried to force their way into the hospital.
The local police force yesterday issued a warning after staff were allegedly harassed.
On Wednesday evening, Ch Insp Chris Gibson said social media posts were being monitored and “any offences, including malicious communications and threatening behaviour, will be investigated and, where necessary, will be acted upon”.
The chairman of the Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, Sir David Henshaw said that staff had “endured attacks upon our motivation, our professionalism and our ethics".
“Our staff have received in person, via phone calls, email, and through social media channels a barrage of highly abusive and threatening language and behaviour that has shocked us all. Worse still, patients and visitors to Alder Hey have also reported abuse.”
Alfie has been in Alder Hey with a rare undiagnosed degenerative neurological condition since December 2016.
Doctors have said the toddler’s brain has been destroyed by his illness and it is in his best interests to withdraw life support.
In a statement the hospital said its "top priority remains in ensuring Alfie receives the care he deserves to ensure his comfort, dignity and privacy are maintained throughout.
"This includes working closely with Kate and Tom as they spend this precious time together with him."